Sunday, January 1, 2012

[January 1st] And in the Spring I Shed my Skin

NB: I know it's far from spring, but these lyrics from "Rabbit Heart" by Florence + the Machine sum up how I feel about New Year. 

I’ve waited for January 1st to write my End of 2011 post, because I needed to have this year behind me, if I am to discuss it. Of course, I missed on yesterday, because I prepared my short story “The Woman Who Wanted to Play Miss Havisham” for submission to Pandemonium: Stories of Smoke. I’m excited, because this will be the first proper SFF story with Bulgaria as setting I am sending out to do the submission rounds. It gives me a great thrill to have written it and include some social commentary on my own.

Most of all I have wanted to wait until January 1st to include this cheeky picture, which does a splendid job at summing 2011 and my experience with it.

 I’m also playing Lily Allen’s “Fuck You” to emphasize how thrilled I am to say a very literal ‘Fuck you’ to the past year.

Theoretically, 2011 should have been a good year for me. I’ve landed a long term job position with all the right benefits and most importantly, steady income to help my family move along. I’m extremely grateful for finding a place in my current firm. The money ensured that we not only needn’t have wondered how to provide all the basic commodities and pay bills, but that I could contribute to paying off debts my family had for the better part of the last decade. We are not completely in the clear, yet, but I can’t stress how relieving it is not to fear the days in the calendar.

I’ve seen my wonderful, talented, loud-mouthed, wise-cracking, tough-as-nails sister through her toughest academic year, the high school entry exams, which in Bulgaria creates a shadow economy of private lessons. This is so because the education system fails to prepare pupils for the exams, which is why parents are forced to sent children to private lessons. Sometimes the monthly total exceeds what the minimum wage here is. Fortunately, my sister had teachers, who understood our situation and charged less. Now, I’m seeing my sister through her first year in the high school of her choice and I’m relieved that the next five years will be quiet in general.

Because I have steady income, I allowed myself the pleasure to plan and after years of intense wanton I realized my dream to visit a convention, which turned out to be the best experience in my life as a geek. I felt insane to be amidst all the talented people at Fantasy Con and give a handshake to the numerous people I have made acquaintances with over Twitter. It’s been madness for me and I’m immensely proud that I planned this trip on my own, executed it on my own and did not get fatally lost in the UK, which right there at the end constituted a real possibility.

As you can see, some of the big things in life are improving, yet, all of the above, I did alone. I had to work on a full work day, care for my sister [including all bureaucracy surrounding her exams, taking her to her lessons, jumping hoops, checking her homework and be for her in all her moments], work towards my Bachelor in Economics and in the meantime devote myself to the SFF community by reading, writing, reviewing and joining conversations. I still have to do all these things alone. My mother has been working on the other end of the country, while my father has disappeared completely from our lives upon the divorce. It’s my grandparents, my sister and I with me being the only adult within the age to do most of the bills and be the parent figure in my sister’s life.

Sometimes I feel trapped by all of this. Sometimes I feel remorse for feeling the first, because I have weathered a lot with my family as a unit. There are ties that run deep, strong and more powerful than I would wish them to be, because they make the possibility of a fresh start all the more complicated. Between running between these two absolutes, I have come to loathe the job that I have. I worked in the customer care department as a call centre operator and the stress led to health complications I never thought I’d be subjected to, one of them being quite the weight jump. I’ve bloated. Severely. Thankfully, I switched departments and now I’m in office heaven with so many funny, filthy-mouthed and dirty-minded peers. However, because 2011 had to be awful, a quick succession of small scale disasters happened, which I’m afraid almost broke whatever was in charge of sanity. I’m getting better, but I have never stopped asking whatever the fuck runs the show ‘haven’t you had enough’.

It comes to no surprise to say that my writing, reading and involvement in the SFF society has been minimal. I closed Temple Library Reviews, because I felt burdened by the whole thing. As always, I came to see myself as not one to fit in that mould for I set out to achieve goals, which could not be reached given the nature of my efforts. 2011 turned out to be a year of endings spring saw me part ways with Apex’s The Zombie Feed, where I worked for less than half a year. I’m extremely pleased with the results I had promoting Mark Allan Gunnells’ novella “Asylum” and Paul Jessup’s novella “Dead Stay Dead”. However, I did manage to become an assistant editor to Bryan Thomas Schmidt’s anthology project “Space Battles”, which comes out next April, and have engaged on a new editorial position, though I’m not at liberty to disclose the complete details as of yet.

On the writing front, I set out to edit “Crimson Cacophony” [now “Crimson Anatomy”] and I did to the point that it has been sent to beta readers and have critique to carry me out through a new round of edits. Other than this, I haven’t achieved anything worthwhile in terms of new words written. Projects have been started, projects have been finished [less often that I would like to], rejected or not edited to be sent out to venues, though I’m surprised I even did all of this. I even have two short stories accepted, which ought to be released some time this year. 

My reading has been disorganized and purposeless. I can’t even track the books I have done. Once I closed Temple Library Reviews, I announced it the year of Reading Unwisely and I think that this is perhaps the one goal that I realized to the fullest of its potential. I have, even so, reviewed for Innsmouth Free Press, The Portal, Rise Reviews, Pornokitsch, The World SF Blog and contributed non-fiction for Beyond Victoriana.

This past year gobbled me up, minced me with its teeth and spat me out. Given my crap track record, I have no reason to hope that 2012 will be any better, but I have my hopes, I have my plans and I’m a firm believer in the power of change. Even if it is only a principal change, I revel in the moment, when in less than a fraction of a second 2011 ceases to exist and then it’s a brand new year. I don’t live so much for the promise of the year being better as I do to bury the corpse of the last year.

All that shit above, hey, that was last year. The calendar is burning in the hearth, the evil has been exorcised, the bad is forgotten, the hard drive has been defragmented and the good has been backed up for the shitty days of the Blue Screen of Death. So I’m happy, fresh and the awfully archaic naïve and hopeful person, who has no place in this world, but here I am and at the moment, I feel like 2012 will be like this:      

     Art by Tsvetka aka Ink-Pot